Senior Federal Aviation Administration officials expressed surprise Tuesday at Northwest Airlines' refusal to make public a passenger list from Sunday's crash.
John Leyden, an FAA spokesman in Washington, said he knew of no precedent for not releasing a list. "And I've been here for over 20 years," he said.
Robert Gibbons, public relations director for Northwest, reiterated Tuesday that the airline would not release the list of the dead in the nation's second-worst airline disaster because it wants to protect family members from harassment.
Also, John Lauber, the National Transportation Safety Board member who is heading the crash inquiry, said in Detroit that some of the passengers may have traded tickets acquired under so-called "frequent flier" programs and thus may not have been flying under their own names.
Releasing the list of passengers of Flight 255 could provide unscrupulous telephone solicitors an easy method to contact family members, Gibbons said.
In some cases, family members of crash victims have become burglary victims during funeral services and unsolicited "grief counselors" have badgered families to undergo treatment, he said. Unsolicited calls from lawyers also have been a problem in the aftermath of plane crashes, he said.
"To the extent we can," Gibbons said, "we want to spare the families that sort of grief."
Northwest's refusal to release the list could delay public disclosure of a complete list of victims until Friday, when Michigan's Wayne County Medical Examiner Werner Spitz has said he would disclose the names.